I’m not sure if you noticed, but I was gone for awhile. I mean, I’m not the most prolific blogger, I’ll give you that, but for three weeks in May I was basically out of commission, and doing my civic duty, participating on a jury which really took over my life.
The trial itself wasn’t all that interesting – civil trial, one dude suing another dude kind of thing – but if you’ve ever been on a jury you’ll know that it can be exhausting because you spend the whole day just listening and – and here is the really tough part – PAYING ATTENTION. TO EVERYTHING.
And you’ll likely know that I am a pretty good listener, but we’ve all had those conversations where we might drift a bit, or we’re thinking of something we want to say to move the conversation along, so we’re not 100% engaged, 100% fully focused. And that’s normal! But in court, you don’t get a chance to interject or voice your opinions (lawyers really don’t like that) you just have to listen. And you can’t zone out for a bit, because you might miss something ultra important. Then, once all the talking is done you have to go away for a few hours to determine the course of someone’s life, based on what you heard and listened to for the past 12 days. NO PRESSURE.
The other thing, of course, is that you’re not permitted to talk about the case, and my dudes, that was kind of the hardest ever thing for me. Because while I am a pretty great listener, I am an even better talker, and more importantly, I am a person who likes to talk things through in order to better understand them. So having to come home and just not talk about what had been going on all day was rather tortuous.
It’s kind of a humbling experience, to be part of a jury. For the first few days, we sat, we listened to witnesses, experts, the plaintiff, the defendant. As the trial went along, when it became clear that things were starting to wrap up, I became more and more nervous. Would we be able to do this? To do the right thing? To look only at evidence, and not let emotions take over? Once both lawyers had presented all their witnesses, we had only closing arguments and the judge’s charge to us left to hear. And then it would be up to us.
So, spoiler alert, we did it, and according to the judge we did a fantastic job. She praised us for being so attentive, so thorough, for taking our time and working through the questions we needed to answer in such great detail, and that was a huge relief. We’re still not really supposed to talk about the case, but honestly, if we’re ever out together having a few drinks, I might just have to give you a rough outline of this trial that consumed me for practically the entire month of May. Because me. Listener. But also talker. Actually, mostly talker.
I learned a lot from sitting on this jury, sitting in that courtroom for so many hours just listening. Listening is a true skill, a real art. We were permitted to take notes – the judge herself is an avid note taker – but what I found was that I was better off watching and listening. I did jot down the occasional fact or concept, but I mostly relied on observation. In then end, my memory of the proceedings was just as good than that of the note takers. For me, head up, watching everything was better than head down, writing furiously on a pad.
It’s a very good lesson, learning to listen more actively without wanting to jump in and add your own two cents to the conversation. To process and reflect, and make decisions based on evidence and fact, and not always just emotional response. It was an experience I’m glad I was able to have. But I’m still quite happy they can’t call me back for three years.